Happy Turkey Tuesday everyone! While I’d originally planned to post a review this week, I’ve recently been under the weather and would rather have my senses 100% before finalizing any notes. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been enjoying any Turkey, though. After all, nothing whips a chest cold like a healthy pour of Rare Breed!
Since I’m stuck with a little down time, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share a few things I’d love to see from Wild Turkey in the next several years – Rare Bird 101’s 2018 Wild Turkey Wish List. While some of these wishes may be a stretch, most are reasonable and arguably attainable, should Wild Turkey and Campari consider. Whether you agree or disagree, I welcome your comments and look forward to any new ideas or opinions.
10. Permanent Labels on Private Barrel Selects – Let’s start with the obvious. Yes, the neck tags are shabby chic (I dig the early Twentieth Century retail vibe) – BUT – they’re only neck tags. They can easily be removed, swapped, or reused after a bottle is finished. I’d like to think that most retailers and enthusiasts would have enough integrity to refrain from such, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t (or hasn’t) happened.
There’s a simple solution: permanently label private selections. While not as necessary for Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit picks (as barrel info is labeled on the neck), it’s certainly a need for Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections. Some vendors have taken matters into their own hands by labeling private select bottles themselves. Designs range from the simple to the absurd, but either way they safeguard the integrity of their unique expressions. While I have no basis for immediate concern, I’m curious as to the legality of such. Does the federal government approve of private labeling by retailers? How about states? I’m thinking there could be issues there. Regardless, the problem wouldn’t even exist if Wild Turkey could provide permanent labels for private selections.
9. Age Statements on Private Barrel Selects (RRSiB and WTKS) -This goes hand-in-hand with permanent labeling; however, should Wild Turkey pass on my permanent label plea, can we at least get age statements on private barrel selects? Many vendors are already disclosing ages privately. How difficult would it be for the distillery to slap an age (or barrel date) on the current private selection tag? It shouldn’t be – I mean, Four Roses does it. So let’s make it happen, Wild Turkey!
8. Barrel & Rickhouse Info on Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bottles – Since we’re discussing labels, let’s go ahead and address one more elephant in the room. Why do standard retail Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel bottles (bourbon and rye) lack barrel information? Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit bottles disclose it, and have since 1994. It would be nice to know which barrel I’m sipping from, as well as where it matured (rickhouse and floor). I’m honestly surprised this doesn’t come up more often. Think about it. If you find a bottle that’s amazing, wouldn’t you like to go back and purchase another? I definitely would. Without barrel information, you’re shooting in the dark.
7. More Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye Private Selects – I know, I know – there’s a limited supply of Wild Turkey rye. I realize that production has increased and more rye barrels are maturing each year, but dang it I’m impatient! I’m sure that over time this request will be granted, but I just couldn’t have a complete Wild Turkey wish list without including it. Fingers crossed that 2018 will see more Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye private selects!
6. Hyper-Aged Wild Turkey Straight Rye – I don’t care how it’s done. It could be a limited edition – it could happen under the Russell’s Reserve or Wild Turkey label – doesn’t matter to me, it just needs to happen (please). We’ve had 12-17 year old WT KSBW, so why not a similar straight rye? I guess it’s unreasonable for me to ask for this and an increase in Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Rye private selects, but can you imagine how amazing a hyper-aged rye expression would be? Don’t even get me started! Want to see me really go nuts? Make it barrel strength! 😎
5. Russell’s Reserve 10-year at 101 Proof – Look, I understand the reason for Wild Turkey lowering this expression’s ABV back in 2005. Far too many barrels were proofing-down, making the overall supply of 10-year 101-proof barrels substantially low. With the increase in entry-proof – not once, but twice from 2004-2006 – this shouldn’t be an issue now. So let’s make things right and get Russell’s Reserve 10-year back to the ABV it deserves. I’d even be fine with paying a few dollars more, should it be necessary to see this a reality.
4. “Throwback” Labels – How cool would it be walk into your local and see rows of Turkeys staring eye-to-eye right at you? How about those old brown labels? Okay, so this wish has nothing to do with the whiskey itself, unless of course we’re talking about adding a big red “8” to Wild Turkey 101. No, not Old No. 8 (it wasn’t red and don’t get me started) – the venerable “8 Years Old.” But with or without an age statement – even if it were for a limited run – I’d love to see dusty-era WT 101 and WT KSBW labels again. And I’m not the only one that approves of this. Here’s a little quote from the 2017 Reddit AMA with the Russell’s: “Jimmy wants to go back to the original [label] from the 50’s.”
So there you have it. Campari, if you’re reading this make note that the Bourbon Buddha has spoken. As for the financial impact, look at the success Coke and Pepsi have had with throwback labels. As hot as vintage Wild Turkey expressions are on secondary markets, I’d be willing to wager my entire dusty Turkey collection that if done correctly throwback labels would be a massive success.
3. Wild Turkey 101 12-Year – Every time this one comes up (and it comes up a lot), we hear someone mention the 13-year Wild Turkey Distiller’s Reserve as a similar product. First, the 13-year is at present an export-only expression. Second, it’s 90-proof and nowhere near the same profile as the 12-year WT 101 we loved for nearly three decades. Now I’m not expecting a modern WT 101/12 to taste like WT 101/12 of the past – but – I’m confident it would taste amazing. For example, most Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selects are around 9.5 years in maturity. Imagine 2.5 additional years. There would likely be more dilution, but not necessarily. It would depend on which rickhouses and floors barrels were selected from. All said and done, it wouldn’t be dusty 101/12, but it would no doubt be excellent 101/12.
2. Rare Breed Rye – I originally considered typing only two words for this item’s discussion … “mic drop.” But seriously, do I really need to twist your arm to get you on board with this one? Traditionally, Wild Turkey Rare Breed (KSBW) has remained a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old whiskeys. With rye typically more palatable at a younger age than bourbon, I honestly don’t see how a blend of 6, 8, and 12-year-old straight rye whiskeys could go wrong. And at barrel proof? I’ll ask again – do I really need to twist your arm with this one?
1. Barrel-Proof, Single-Barrel Wild Turkey KSBW – With the exception of Jewish Whisky Company releases, we haven’t seen a barrel-proof, single-barrel Wild Turkey expression since 1998’s Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend (“Donut”). Sure, we have Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel at 110 proof (NCF), but with an entry-proof of 115 and barrels aging in traditional wood rickhouses, my bet is there’s reasonable dilution prior to bottling. Other distilleries are bottling their single barrel releases at barrel proof, so why not compete?
If Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel selections were bottled at barrel proof, a minor price increase would be justified. Just take a look at the Lawrenceburg kid down the block, Four Roses (yes, I’m bringing up Four Roses again). Four Roses private selections are quite often more expensive than Russell’s Reserve private selects (depending on where you shop, of course). Considering that and how amazing both Whisky Jewbilee bottles have been, I’d happily pay a little more for barrel-proof, single-barrel Russell’s Reserve.
Another option might be to bring back Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend, or just introduce a new expression altogether. The Turkey nostalgic in me would love to see new Donut bottles on shelves (with improved cork/stoppers, of course), but you won’t find me complaining should it be released some other way. All said and done I’d be thrilled to see barrel-proof, single-barrel Wild Turkey KSBW at my local. In the meantime, I’ll keep following the Jewish Whisky Co. and Single Cask Nation like a hawk!
So there you have it – my Wild Turkey Wish List as of January 2018. Did I miss anything? Maybe I didn’t but failed to make a worthy case? Whatever your thoughts might be, I’d love to hear them. Sound off below, send me a message, or track me down on social media. I’m looking forward to some fun and interesting discussions. Cheers!